Put the Pick Up in Park, and Enjoy Idle Conversation

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Essayist Mike Perry loves riding his pick up truck on the open road. Not for the high speed, but for the chats he has, window to window, across the centerline.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Just ahead, a lively performance from members of the Drive-By Truckers. But first, the open road invites high speed and adventure, but essayist Mike Perry believes in slowing down and taking stock. He offers these thoughts about life from the seat of his pickup.

MIKE PERRY reporting:

If we meet on the road and time allows, we'll stop for a center-line chat. Add this to the list of rural traditions on the wane. What a delicious refutation of hustle, to align your driver's side windows, kill the engines, and shoot the breeze while the flies buzz.

You talk about where you're headed, where you're coming from, or how the corn's looking or the price of hogs. You keep one eye out for traffic. If a car approaches and you can wrap it up, it's crank the starter, roll off, and toss a see-you-later over one shoulder. If you're in the middle of a good part, you pull ahead enough to let the traffic pass, then back up, realign, and pick up where you left off.

Usually, it's just chitchat and catching up, but sometimes you get nuggets. It was through pickup windows at the intersection of Carlson Corners that I received the happy news of Jed's engagement to his second wife.

The land rushes on in these parts, and not all the new folks are pursuing a ruralist vibe. They roar up here and forget to quit hurrying. Last summer I was mowing the lawn when my buddy Snake passed by. I flagged him down, killed the mower, and wandered out to talk. Snake and I were pals from kindergarten to graduation. These days we see each other maybe once a year.

I leaned against his door there in the middle of Main Street, and we visited for a good while. Every now and then a car would swing around us. But you can run four or five abreast down Main Street, so it was no big thing.

Then this woman pulled up on Snake's bumper and honked. I looked at her, looked at the space around us, and then leaned back in the window. She honked again. We just talked and ignored her. Shortly, she gave the steering wheel a violent twist, stomped the accelerator, and whipped out around us.

As she zoomed past, she gave us the finger. We gave her the gaze, the implication being, ma'am, this is how you gossip in the absence of a garden fence. We're luxuriating in the tapering moments of a quieter time, and furthermore, honking crabs the soul.

ELLIOTT: Michael Perry is an EMT and writer in rural Wisconsin. His forthcoming book is called Truck, A Love Story.

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